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We've Changed Our Mind on Brexit

Polls indicate the public no longer wants Brexit.

Proponents

Context

At the time of the vote, the British public voted to leave by only a slender margin (51.9% for Leave and 48.1% to Remain). Now, two years later, the public appetite to leave the EU is significantly diminished.

The Argument

During the first referendum, for which over 70% of the public turned out, many voters used their vote as a form of protest against the government of the day. At the time, Prime Minister David Cameron was one of the figureheads of the Remain campaign. Many viewed their vote as a way to protest his government. The latest polls indicate that if a Brexit vote was to be held today, around 54% of the public would vote to remain.[1] In fact, every poll taken since the original June 2016 referendum has shown that the public would prefer to remain in the EU.[2] Additionally, amongst young people who were too young to vote in the first referendum but are now over the age of 18, support for Brexit is very low. A second referendum would give these young people a say, after all, they are the ones that will feel the effects of the Brexit decision for years to come. Another explanation for the shift in voter opinion was promoted by Alvin Toffler. He suggested that at the time of the first referendum, the British public was suffering from what he calls “future shock”, the inability to adjust to excessive change in a short period of time. Now faced with the realities of Brexit and the prospect of Britain’s immediate departure from the EU, many people would vote differently in a second referendum.[3] The second referendum should include the option to remain. Similarly, a hard Brexit is the one option that politicians and businesses alike are united in their opposition to. Therefore, it makes logical sense that it is taken off the table and the only options put to the public vote are Theresa May's deal, and the option to remain in the EU.

Counter arguments

A second referendum would undermine British democracy. It would send a message to the British people that a majority vote is not enough weight to provide legitimacy and certainty to decisions. It might give a more accurate understanding of what people want regarding Brexit, but it would undermine all future political elections, further foster divisions and strip any future government of political legitimacy.[4] It would set a precedent that once the original conditions for a vote changed, the people should have a chance to vote again on the same issue. If this is applied to the future political landscape, it would mean more regular public votes and breakdown of democracy. Besides, although people may not like the idea of Brexit, they don’t want a second vote. Polling has found that the public desire for a second vote is low. Last year, just 31% of people thought the UK should hold a second referendum. This year it has risen, but not by much. In July 2018, just 42% of the public were in favour of holding a second referendum.[5] Even though many voters regret the outcome of the 2016 referendum, most still believe it should go ahead in some form. Even remain voters expressed desires for Brexit to go ahead out of respect for the democratic result of the first referendum.[6]

Premises

Public opinion has changed. The British people no longer want Brexit. Politicians and Business leaders don't want a hard Brexit. Elected officials should consult the public again to choose between May's soft Brexit and remaining in the EU.

Rejecting the premises

Britain is a democracy. The people already voted. They voted out. Now we must deliver what they asked for.

References

  1. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/16/opinion/sunday/brexit-theresa-may-politics.html
  2. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-45520517
  3. https://www.forbes.com/sites/hershshefrin/2018/11/18/the-u-k-needs-a-second-brexit-referendum/#72606d37e018
  4. https://theconversation.com/the-case-for-and-against-a-second-brexit-referendum-four-experts-give-their-views-90142
  5. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/aug/19/public-support-shifting-toward-second-brexit-referendum-explainer
  6. https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2017/10/27/there-has-been-shift-against-brexit-public-still-t

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This page was last edited on Thursday, 13 Dec 2018 at 19:40 UTC